NHL Playoff Bracket 2011: Dates And Times Set For First Round

The St. Louis Blues are mathematically eliminated from NHL Playoff contention.

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NHL Playoff Predictions 2011: Detroit Red Wings Neutral, Chicago Blackhawks Down, Per Experts

SB Nation's panel of hockey writers tossed out their NHL playoff predictions in time for the beginning of this week's NHL Playoffs. 2011's NHL playoffs schedule sees the Chicago Blackhawks against the Vancouver Canucks once more, and three out of four on the panel agree that the Canucks will take the series, though Steve Lepore of Puck the Media thinks the Blackhawks will pull the series out in seven. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings only get a push against the No. 6 Phoenix Coyotes, winning just two of the four experts over. Travis Hughes of Broad Street Hockey and Mike Chen aren't quite convinced by the Central Division champs' 47-25-10 record. 

Finishing up the action in the Central Division, the Nashville Predators take an upset from the No. 4 Anaheim Ducks per three of the four experts, all of whom think the series will go the full seven games. They think the Predators' defense-first style will carry them through the first first-round win in team history. 

For a full look at the 2011 NHL Playoff Bracket, follow along at SB Nation's hockey hub. And to commiserate with fellow St. Louis Blues fans throughout the playoffs, try St. Louis Game Time

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NHL Playoff Bracket 2011: Dates And Times Set For First Round

The Detroit Red Wings will kick off their first-round NHL Playoffs matchup against the six-seeded Phoenix Coyotes Wednesday, April 13, at 6 PM. Elsewhere in the Western Conference's Central Division, the Nashville Predators take on No. 4 Anaheim Ducks at 9:30 PM, and the Chicago Blackhawks, having sneaked into the playoffs after their controversial win against the St. Louis Blues, find themselves up against the one-seed Vancouver Canucks at 9 PM. In the Blues-fan schadenfreude TV schedule I can see the Blackhawks game coming first... just a hunch. 

The NHL Playoffs kick off as a whole on Wednesday, when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Pittsburgh Penguins at 6:00. Game sevens, as necessary, are scheduled through April 27, which is quite a ways away. 

The rest of the playoff schedule for days one and two: The Washington Capitals will play another Wednesday game, taking on the New York Rangers at 6:30; the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres meet on Thursday, at 6:30; and the Boston Bruins and the Montreal Canadiens, sans Ultimate Playoff Hero Jaroslav Halak, play that day at 6:00, while the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings go at 9:00. 

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NHL Playoffs: Jaroslav Halak, St. Louis Blues Sink Nashville Predators

The Nashville Predators had just clinched a playoff berth the night before, but they weren't prepared for the St. Louis Blues on Saturday—the already-eliminated Blues shut out the Predators in the final game of the regular season, winning 2-0 behind solid work from Jaroslav Halak and goals from T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen. It was Halak's third shutout against the Predators this season. The Predators, with 99 points, finish fifth in the hotly contested Western Conference NHL Playoffs race. 

The St. Louis Blues finish a disappointing season 38-33-11. With a major rebuilding process in progress they have on offseason's worth of thinking to do about Jaroslav Halak's development as a goalie; Alex Pietrangelo's emergence as a top defenseman; David Backes's best season yet; and the outstanding play of midseason acquisition Chris Stewart, who finished sixth on the team in goals scored despite playing just 25 games with the Blues. A season that began with a lot of promise in its own right ends promising the development of some important pieces in the Blues' future. 

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NHL Playoffs: St. Louis Blues Prepare For Last Game Of Season

After a controversial goal from the Chicago Blackhawks kept the St. Louis Blues from playing spoiler in the 2011 NHL Playoffs chase, their work in the 2010-2011 season is all but done—they play their last game of the season Saturday, inviting the 44-26-11 Nashville Predators to Scottrade Center for a last hurrah in St. Louis. For the Blues there are only a few pleasures left to enjoy, and a few questions left to answer—will Chris Stewart score another goal? Will Jaroslav Halak continue the incremental improvement he's shown since returning from injury? 

For the Blue a season that began with excitement and confidence and a new goalie ran off course will end with a major rebuilding project and nasty losing streaks and a new, new goalie. For the Predators, currently seeded fourth in the extremely close Western Conference playoff hunt, will look to fight off the Phoenix Coyotes, tied with 99 points, and the Los Angeles Kings, who've got 98. All three teams have just one game to go. 

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NHL Playoffs: Jaroslav Halak Looks Solid As Season Ends For St. Louis Blues

Last year's NHL Playoffs saw Jaroslav Halak establish himself as a household name at goalie just in time to cause a whirl of giddy St. Louis Blues fan expectations when he arrived in America in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens. After a white-hot start to the season, the Blues fell apart and Halak fell, first out of the news and then out of the games altogether, struggling to return from a hand injury. As the P-D reports, he's been back a month now, and though the Blues' season is just about over, he's been stellar, allowing 2.14 goals against per game since returning. 

Halak is versed enough in athlete-speak to shrink back from the questions about his recent improvement, suggesting that it has a lot to do with the way the new-look Blues congealed while he was gone. But in 2012 all those improvements will be for nothing—no matter how awesome Chris Stewart is, and he's admittedly pretty awesome—if the Blues don't get the Jaroslav Halak fans remember from the playoffs just a year ago. 

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NHL Playoffs: Chicago Blackhawks Sneak Past Blues To Stay In Hunt

The St. Louis Blues couldn't quite top the Chicago Blackhawks, losing in overtime in part thanks to a controversial goal that still has the Game Time fans riled. The win, from an early 2-0 deficit, puts the Blackhawks in their most comfortable position ahead of the NHL Playoffs in some time. With 95 points, the ninth-seed Dallas Stars would have to win their last three games to pass the Blackhawks for the last spot in the Western Conference. It's an ignominious end to the regular season for the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, but it just might be enough to get them into the playoffs. 

Marian Hossa's second-period shot was ruled a goal immediately and set the United Center crowd surging back into the game, but a long delay for a video review confirmed, in the eyes of NHL officials, both that Hossa had gotten the puck with his stick and not just his skate and that the puck had crossed the goal line before being saved by backup Blues goaltender Ty Conklin

The Blues, who got goals from David Backes, T.J. Oshie, and Chris Stewart, fall to 37-33-11 on the season. The Blackhawks improve to 43-28-9, third in the central division. 

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NHL Playoffs: St. Louis Blues Mathematically Eliminated From Contention

The last bit of St. Louis related 2011 NHL Playoffs news finally rolled down the assembly line last week, when the St. Louis Blues were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. It seems like so long ago when the Blues were atop the average NHL Power Rankings, Jaroslav Halak couldn't be breeched, and playoff updates were a matter of where exactly the Blues and their Central Division rivals would be seeded, but that was only November. 

Since then the Blues have fallen apart involuntarily and then, more excitingly, voluntarily begun to rebuild, getting a great half-season from Chris Stewart and startlingly quick development from Alex Pietrangelo in their fight to keep Scottrade Center occupied in the dregs of April while they coast to a record of 36-33-10. 

Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings are 46-23-10, second best in the Western Conference, and the hated Chicago Blackhawks remain in playoff contention, hanging on to the last playoff spot in the west with a record of 42-28-8. The rebuilding isn't quite as much fun as all that—or as 2010 seemed to promise—but as the NHL Playoffs begin it's all Blues fans have to hold on to. 

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